Archive for the ‘leeds market’ Category

The Leeds Shopping Centre in the ’20s and ’30s,Rugby and the Cinemas.By Stan Pickles.

October 1, 2012

For this month’s tale Stan Pickles takes us back even further than usual to the 1020s/30s. Stan who has contributed massively to our East Leeds memories is, alas, no longer with us but the good news was he lived to be a hundred and his great memories of Leeds will live on even longer in these pages. Maybe Stan’s tales may appeal more directly to the pre-computer literate generation. Perhaps if you know someone who would appreciate a trawl through the 1920s/30s you could print it off for them?

The Leeds Shopping Centre in the ‘20s and ‘30s,
Rugby and the Cinemas.
By Stan Pickles
What a difference there is in the Leeds scene today from the lovely atmosphere of yesteryear. Then the shops were all household names and readily come to mind: Walker’s and Geldard’s next door to each other at the top of Kirkgate fitted out all the families for years: Geldard’s for ladies and children’s wear and Walker’s for dads and their lads. They were busy all year round and full to capacity for the annual Whitsuntide ritual. Walker’s with their trade name ‘REKLAW’ also supplied overalls and aprons for all trades. I got my printer’s apron there. Around the corner in Call Lane was King’s footwear shop where you could get a good pair of shoes or boots for eight shillings (40p).
Ho! Those tailor’s shops: Thirty Shilling Tailors, Fifty Shilling Tailors, John Colliers, Burtons of course. Half a dozen are still hanging on with a new image. As I passed through the centre on my way to work many were the times I called at Braham’s Pork Shop on Duncan Street for a sixpenny pork sandwich for lunch, or across the way for a quarter of Wraggs famous polony. That shop was noted for its pork pies sausages and polony. Many were the times I called in there after the rugby game at Headingley for half a pound of best polony for Mam and Dad’s tea with cakes and Yorkshire Relish.
Rawcliffe’s, the school outfitters, also on Duncan Street did a roaring trade in special school jackets, ties, caps all with the many distinctive school badges. There were also: Woolworth’s, Marks and Spencer’s (still there) and so many other big stores such as Lewis’s Schofield’s and the rest.
In the days before the wars there was no one-way traffic systems and Briggate and City Square in particular were choc-a-bloc with traffic doing its best to force a way through and the drivers in these rough conditions trying to control their tempers. Of course there was not the quantity of traffic there is today and the one-way systems have been a great help
The Leeds Market held pride of place for shopping. The whole atmosphere around the stalls and the open market filled with its stallholder characters. It was an entertainment in itself to see: Jimmy Rhodes juggling with baskets of crockery and dinner sets. Ringing them like bells and gradually knocking them down to give away prices in front of big interested audiences was enough to fill a stranger with admiration. There was another chap filling a carrier with soap and washing powder, quoting prices all the time and then saying , ‘Come on give me a couple of bob (10p) for the lot.’ and putting an extra bar of soap in the bag as you passed the money over.
These clever salesmen could hold an audience for ages with their sales patter. Then there was the couple who sold sweets and chocolate bars who would fill a large bag with mixed confectionary, then the lady would take them around the audience and sell them at half the price. The patter went something like this, ‘Why pay fancy prices in the shops for their electric lighting and their gaily coloured bags and the smile of the girl behind the counter?’ There was a fellow selling hair clippers who had a bare patch at the back of his head where he had demonstrated his goods’
The final hour on Saturday night was a good time for bargains. Big bunches of bananas going for sixpence (2 and a half p). Fruit – almost given away.
How many of the past newly-married couples still living remember Wigfall’s and Jay’s furniture stores with the famous slogan: Yours today – four years to pay?’ Yes, things have certainly altered a lot from those far off days of yore.
Joe Dixon, the market bobby would keep things in order while in the entrance, Woodbine Lizzie asked, ‘Give us a cig, cock.’ Joe Dixon, incidentally, played for Leeds Rugby League in the 1923 Cup Final at Wakefield when Leeds beat Hull 28-3.
The highlight of my Leeds games was when I went to Wakefield in 1923 to see that Leeds and Hull in the Rugby League Cup Final. I was only eleven years old but by now knew what it was all about. How I had looked forward to it, catching the Wakefield tramcar at the Corn Exchange and travelling the long ride to the Bull Ring. The old Chantry Bridge was choc-a-block with people on their way to Belle View. I was delighted to see Leeds win the cup and Jim Bacon holding it aloft. After the match we got back to Leeds and waited on Boar Lane to see the victorious Leeds team come home in an open coach to huge cheering crowds all the way to the Griffin Hotel, where thee was a reception and the players came out onto the balcony. I was a very happy youngster.
It gives a sense of history that almost 90 years after that 1923 final we still find ourselves walking over Chantry Bridge to that grand old Belle View Stadium (now the Rapid Solicitor’s Stadium and soon to be something quite different altogether)
At Headingley we always stood behind the posts at the St Michael’s Lane end. And apart from my later years when I got a stand ticket that was my favourite spot. How times have changes, though. Now ninety percent go by car and the streets around the ground are packed every Sunday when there is a match. Going back to a time between the wars it was a common sight to see rows of private bus companies like, Wallace Arnold and Heaps, that had bussed loads from all over the north parked tail to tail. It was a regular occurrence to see 30,000 in the ground on big match days
Going to the Pictures
Starting in the early twenties after I had graduated through my ‘penny rush’ days at the Easy Road Picture House I ventured further afield with cinema visits all over the city My earliest memories were of stars like, Douglas Fairbanks (the acrobatic one), Mary Pickford (the world’s sweetheart), Charlie Chaplin (the little tramp) who introduced Jackie Coogan as ‘the kid’, Lon Chaney (the man with 1,000 faces), Tom Mix and William S. Hart (the first cowboy stars). Richard Bartholomew and Alice Terry were probably the biggest attractions in the twenties. Rudolph Valentino (he was the sheik) riding off over the desert with his dancing slave girl, Oh that Vilma Banky! The big silent films of the time were: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, The Gold Rush, The Black Pirate, The Sea Hawk, Blood and Sand, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Way down East and that great epic, The Ten Commandments. To add to the drama and effect there was a pianist who did a good job giving atmosphere to the occasion. Now and again a singer would be engaged to give extra entertainment. For the film, The Volga Boatman at the Coliseum half a dozen singers were engaged to pull a rope across the front of the screen chanting the boatman’s song, ‘Ho’er, Heave Ho’ pretending to be pulling a barge as in the film provided a very effective overture before the film started. By this time I was a fanatic and interested in anything about films. I bought the weekly magazine: The Picture Show, two pence every week, which was full of interesting topics and pictures of the big films, the big stars and all the latest gossip. By the time the ‘talkies’ arrived in 1928 singing and dancing films were all the rage; The Broadway Melody, Hollywood Revue, On With the Sow. Desert Song, Rio Rita, Gold Diggers and the first talking and singing film: The Singing Fool with Al Jolson drew big crowds at Briggate’s Rialto Picture House.
The thirties carried on with new stars arriving on the scene, child star, Shirley Temple was the biggest sensation of them all. As for the men: nobody could match Clark Gable who went to the top with films like: It Happened One Night, Mutiny on the Bounty, San Francisco and finishing the thirties with the Masterpiece: Gone With the Wind. Gangster films were very popular: The Big House, Up the River, Fugitive from the Chain Gang and Public Enemy Number One, made stars of: James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, Paul Muni, Humphrey Bogart, and many more.
I saw lots of films, going at least twice a week. Night school didn’t help but on one of the nights our lesson on practical work was broken to go across Cookridge Street to the Art School (I hated it) for the 8 p.m.–9 p.m. session. I could not stand drawing letter characters as it was of no use to my trade and a waste of time (My old
school teacher, Mr Archie Gordon, once called me, sarcastically of course, ‘Our lightening artist’). Anyway I thought it was a better idea to stay at the back of the group and nip into the Coliseum for the last show. It came off until I had been absent
three times, then I was found out and had to pay a visit to the Head, Mr Bottomley, who was very sympathetic to my cause but asked me to play the game, so that was that.
The biggest night in the history of Leeds cinema was the opening of the luxurious theatre: The Paramount, Briggate, in February 1932. The Smiling Lieutenant featuring Maurice Chevalier was the big film followed by a wonderful stage show. A friend and I went straight from work but couldn’t get near the place for the huge crowds never mind getting in. However we were successful on the Thursday evening. I will always remember it was like entering a royal palace and the wonderful show on stage, I had never seen anything like it.
The opening of the Shaftsbury a few years earlier in 1928 offered really good stage shows. I think it was the only cinema to have double seats for young couples. It was my favourite cinema and held many happy memories. I took my future wife on our first date to the Shaftsbury and I remember the film: The Barrett’s of Wimpole Street (1935). Going back even earlier still to 1923 – The Princess Cinema opened in Pontefract Lane. After being quite happy visiting the ‘bug hutches’ like: The Easy Road, The Victoria, The Premier and then The Regent you can imagine how we felt going into a lovely new picture house. The seats were all very comfortable and the cinema itself was kept spotless. The price of admission was: 3d, 6d, and 9d. Wednesday night was ‘jazz night’. When the lights went up the audience were invited to join in a sing-song following a bouncing ball on a song sheet on the screen while a small orchestra played the popular tunes of the day: I Like Ice Cream, Toy Drum Major, California Moon and Constantinople were songs I recall. Oh and those serials in fifteen episodes with…to be continued next week finishing at the most exciting part and holding you in suspense until the next week. I remember them well: Bride 13, Hidden Dangers, The Masked Rider, Fantomas, Houdini and the most famous and evil of them all Dr. Fu Manchu, who terrified everyone with his torture chamber and the evil deeds, carried out on his adversaries. Pearl White was always in danger, fighting him in films like, The Ebony Block and The Perils of Pauline.
In the thirties I was on the ‘Big Five’ mailing list, a little booklet of monthly programmes at: The Majestic, The Scala, The Coliseum, The Assembly Rooms and The Parkfield in Jack Lane, Hunslet. On Saturday nights you had to book early to be sure of getting in. Yes, cinema going was the main entertainment before the war. Unfortunately, people lost interest after World War Two. Those lovely cinemas were closed and many turned into ‘bingo halls’. I rarely go to the pictures now- a- days but those grand golden days of the cinema hold a special memory for me.

Thanks for those great memories. Stan.
The central Leeds cinema I remember were: The Odeon (previously The Paramount), The ABC (previously The Ritz)the Tower, The Assembly Rooms, The Gourmont – Cookridge Street (previously the Coliseum), The Scala and Majestic who always showed the same film for some reason and The News Theatre and Tattler near City Square. And our local cinemas: The Picture House (Easy Road), The Princess, Star, Shaftsbury, Regent, Hillcrest and in Hunslet: The Premier, Strand and Regal – all within walking distance and many more just a tram ride away. I’m sure you, our readers will remember many more.

Right, out last picture was of course The Market District Boys Club. Eric got it right how many more? And what about this months picture? All East Leedsers should recognise this one.

The Daily School Run

October 1, 2010

                                              THE DAILY SCHOOL RUN

                                                     By Eric Sanderson

Eric was able to walk to his primary school – Victoria School, York Road Leeds – but when he aspired to study at The Leeds Central High School he needed to take to public transport and an adventurous walk through central Leeds which helped to put him in the right frame of mind for the potentially troublesome day to come. Eric here relates his typical ‘Daily School Run.’ 


From 1951 onwards, my school was located in the centre of Leeds. This required a daily journey on public transport and, as my home was roughly equidistant from the York Rd system and the No 62 bus route running along East Park Parade via East St etc, a good choice of regular, if usually crowded transport was available.

At the beginning of each school year, we were all issued with our own copies of the year’s text books & for the first couple of years, lock up desks were not available to us. This meant that we had to cart the text books for each day’s timetable as well as the corresponding exercise books. Woe betides anyone who tried to avoid bringing the full complement & share with a companion. Along with the compulsory hymn & prayer book, it was a heavy load so a ride was a necessity rather than a luxury.

I normally chose to travel by Tramcar, primarily because in those days it was cheaper than the bus fare. Taking the tram from outside Victoria school, the fare was 2d (less than 1p) from there to the Central Bus Station, the furthest I could travel for 2d. I guess today’s equivalent would be over £1 – some 120 times greater! The next stop, Corn Exchange cost another 1d and the eagle eyed conductors were always on the lookout for anyone trying to hitch the extra stop for free.

As the tram track ran down the middle of the road, passengers had to flag down the tram and swiftly move to the middle of the road, dodging the traffic in order to board. Admittedly, traffic density & speed was infinitesimal compared to today but even so, it could still be a little risky, bearing in mind vehicle braking systems were much less efficient , especially on slippery surfaces or if the day was a pea souper ,which was not uncommon at the time.

Some of the older trams still had an open front and rear on the upper deck which was not too friendly in bad weather, especially if you were trying to make a start on or complete your homework. These trams were gradually being replaced with the “London” type which were much more comfortable with upholstered seating, better suspension (giving a smoother ride such that your scribblings were less spidery) and much quieter. The 10/15min journey was a good opportunity to put the finishing touches to uncompleted homework, especially if this involved just cramming up on a couple of pages of The Merchant of Venice prior to being grilled  during Eng Lit later in the day. The trams swayed, trundled & clanged their way down the hill & at the bottom of York Rd, at the Woodpecker junction, they’d make an ear piercing, screeching turn round the very sharp bend before passing into Marsh Lane. I also seem to recollect a turntable being located here because the older, long fixed wheelbase trams couldn’t negotiate this curve whereas the newer, double bogied ones could, even if noisily scrubbing off half of the wheel flanges.

Dropping off at the Central Bus Station, after jumping onto the floor mounted conductor’s bell, I’d often wander thro the nearby old slaughterhouse, only occasionally being stopped or ejected and even at 8 o clock, the slaughter was in full swing.

I’ve often thought about my fascination with this horror & ritual but it was probably not dissimilar to that young boy’s experience these days watching Rambo slaughter half of South East Asia in a single afternoon, with the added dimension of the smell of fear & death. Now and again, a poor crazed beast would break loose and stampede around the place and this was a little scary, being the signal for me to beat a hasty retreat.

Leaving the scene of carnage behind to enter the Market Buildings, starting at the lower end which was the fish market. At the time, the Leeds fish market was second in size in the country only to London’s Billingsgate and had a trainload of fresh fish delivered each market day, direct from Hull & Grimsby.

A friend, who had left school early, not being the sharpest knife in the drawer,  had a job boiling crabs somewhere in the bowels of the market and early morning would  see him pushing a barrow load of steaming crabs for delivery to all the fishmonger’s stalls . I have to say he always seemed very happy in his task which he doubled up with a job as an ice cream salesman, pedaling the 3 wheeled contraptions with an ice box on the front, all around the district. Jackie was always good for a few minutes light hearted banter & even for the odd free iced lollipop for his old pals.

Leeds Market was the first place I ever heard adults using what might be called “industrial language”.

Somewhat naively, I thought bad language was the province of young men, probably because I never heard my parents swear in their lifetime, at least never in front of me. So to hear such ripe language in everyday use was a revelation & slightly exhilarating. Wandering along the “top row”, admiring the stacks of highly polished apples and other exotic fruits set my mind wandering to distant lands like The Sudan, Morocco, Spain & Hawaii that I feared would never be my good fortune to visit.  However, unaccompanied young boys were unwelcome in the market in those days, I suspect the stallholders were suspicious of opportunist young thieves & when simply wandering through, would often be told to “**** off out “in no uncertain terms. A police constable also patrolled the aisles & would similarly kick young boys out with a warning not to return. I always thought this to be rough justice as I was, for the most part, only daydreaming.

Crossing into King Edward St, to gaze enviously into J.T.Roger’s ‘bike shop, followed by a stroll up the County Arcade where there was a large toyshop, just above the old Mecca Locarno, & always worth a few minutes dalliance.

Many will remember the fair haired flower vendor who was invariably wore a long camel coat & plenty of gold jewellery. For many years he stood in Briggate near the Queens Arcade & when I passed, he would be just starting to set up shop. This gave me another opportunity to indulge my travel dreams by reading the labels on the flower boxes – Holland, Scilly Isles & even Lincolnshire sounded attractive.

For a salesman, he was never too friendly and even after several years of wishing him the occasional good morning, he would still retort with a rather unpleasant expletive. I made my mind up during those years that I would never buy any flowers from him & I never did.

A few years ago, I saw in the YEP that he’d died after something like 60 years of trade, mainly just around that pitch.

Onwards through Thornton’s Arcade where there was an exclusive fountain pen shop (it’s still there).At school we were only allowed to use cheap fountain pens or the old “dip” pens.  Ball pens (or Biros as they were then known) were strictly forbidden as they were deemed inimical to good handwriting. Still, the Parkers, Waterman’s, Swans & Conway Stewarts with their tortoiseshell casings & golden trim were rare jewels to behold.    One day!

A slight diversion around the corner would lead to the City Varieties showcase where grainy, black & white photos of Phyllis Dixie’s semi nude tableaux added a little spice to the start of the day but this could only ever last for a few fleeting seconds because passing adults would often admonish leering young boys for having “filthy minds”. I wonder what they would think of the sexual maturity of today’s youth?  

Woodhouse Lane was a little different to now & divided roughly where the St John Centre is now. At this junction was Rowland Winn’s Central Garage with a glittering showroom, exhibiting the very latest shiny new Austin/Morris models. It was here that I first saw the new “Mini” (I think about 1955) and a few minutes of mouthwatering window shopping was never wasted.

Past Lindley’s gun shop in Albion St (where a murder took place during an attempted robbery around 1952/3 & thereafter became a scene of morbid attraction for many schoolboys) & round the corner into Great George St (only Masters, prefects & 6th formers were permitted to use the Woodhouse Lane front entrance) for a short game of touch & pass or a final round robin check on last nights homework.  All in all, a great start to the day I always thought, but then it was into the fortress for a day of 7 periods of Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Eng Lang & other such less interesting diversions, all guaranteed to kill off a few more brain cells.

The Town Hall clock striking 4-o-clock ( it did strike in those days) was music to my ears when a rapid scamper down one of the central staircases , a swift dash down the Head row , with luck, would see me home just after half past four, even if a further hour or so of homework beckoned.

For several years, this start to the day, with a few variations on my route to view other attractions (including the railway station to gaze at the destination board & indulge my travel fantasies), was my usual routine apart from a short period when a serious fire at the school resulted in a temporary relocation to another school, but I never tired of those meanderings which prepared me for the mind numbing rigours of the school day.

I doubt very much if today’s usual ride in the car to the school gates is anything like as fascinating for most youngsters.